400 East 57th St. (1st Ave.)
New York, NY 10022
Sofrito is a Puerto Rican restaurant located in Sutton Place, the oft-maligned culinary outpost in Manhattan. Its Mets connection is not evident at first glance, but long-underrated center fielder Carlos Beltran is a part owner as of summer 2010. A long bar and lounge area greets the diner upon entrance. The main eating area is located at the rear of the restaurant.
Sofrito is colorful, both literally and figuratively. The dim overhead lighting is broken up by bright fluorescents at the bar, and orange-hued panels on the walls of the dining area. Scantily-clad but friendly barkeeps serve up cocktails while Puerto Rican salsa music blares on speakers. Beltran's trademark walkup song "El Esta Aqui" by David & Abraham was not played during my visit. Sofrito stays open late on weekend nights. Revelers streamed in during my Saturday evening dinner and it appeared Sofrito would be alive through the early morning hours.
Servers stated that Beltran frequently visits to eat with his family and friends. His affinity for the restaurant was the reason for his investment. Consistent with his public persona, he reportedly prefers a low profile when present at Sofrito.
As a Puerto Rican cuisine novice, I asked the waitress for some appetizer guidance. Her favorite menu item is Mejillones en Caldo de Cilantro y Chorizo ($14), or Mussels in Cilantro and Chorizo Broth. The waitress proved reliable, as the dish is outstanding. It is large enough to be a starter for two and fresh bread is provided to soak up the delicious broth. Although listed as an appetizer, it stands on its own as a main course for one.
Following the appetizer would be a tough proposition. My selection was the Mofongo al Pilon de Bistec ($15), or shredded beef over mashed green plantains. The beef is tasty, if a bit plain, but the plantain underneath the mountain of meat is a nice treat. More peppers would improve the dish.
Dessert was necessary despite a filling appetizer and main course. I went with the Passion Fruit Cheesecake ($6) and it is delectable enough to provide a sweet capper for any meal.
Sofrito is perfect for a weeknight romantic outing (it's reportedly quieter during the week) or weekend group dining. It is a fine choice for beginning a rowdy birthday evening. There were at least four parties celebrating a birthday during my meal. The portions are sizeable, especially considering the price. Sofrito is recommended for Puerto Rican food aficionados and beginners alike. And also for those who don't mind loud music.
Rating, on a scale from Alex Cora to Tom Seaver